The county Board of Supervisors has an excellent opportunity Tuesday to join the campaign to permanently preserve one of the most scenic pieces of coastal property in San Luis Obispo County.
The board should not hesitate to allocate $1 million in park fees toward purchase of the 900-acre Pismo Preserve immediately east of Pismo Beach. Here's why we believe this project is critical:
- Acquisition of the Pismo Preserve will benefit residents of much of the South County, who are blessed with beaches but don't have large tracts of public open space for activities such as hiking, mountain biking and trail running.
- It will add to our regional inventory of hiking and biking trails. That will solidify the county's growing reputation for ecotourism and help our economy.
- It will preserve, in perpetuity, open space along the highly traveled Highway 101 corridor.
- The county will not have to pay to operate and maintain Pismo Preserve. That responsibility will fall to The Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo County, which plans to acquire this privately owned land and open it to the public, at no charge.
Time, though, is of the essence: The conservancy has until the end of July to raise $12 million - $10 million for the property and $2 million for access improvements and other expenses. If it doesn't meet the deadline, the owner, PB Coast View LLC, will look to other buyers.
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While raising $12 million in such a short time is a huge challenge, two state agencies are willing to consider contributing a combined $8 million in bond funds. One of them, the state Coastal Conservancy, will discuss allocating as much as $4 million to Pismo Preserve when its board meets next week.
If the state funding comes through, that will leave $4 million to raise locally. For that, The Land Conservancy is looking to the county and other local governments, as well as to foundations and private donations. (Approximately $400,000 in donations already has been raised.)
The county's contribution at this point is crucial. The $1 million will not only help The Land Conservancy meet its goal, it also will increase the likelihood that other agencies will contribute. After all, why should the state Coastal Conservancy or the cities of Pismo Beach or Grover kick in if the county of San Luis Obispo isn't willing to do so?
For those concerned about dedicating such a large sum of county revenue, here's the good news: The county's share will come exclusively from fees that housing developers pay to finance recreational facilities such as parks, trails, playgrounds, etc. The county currently has $2.5 million in unallocated park fees. While there are many worthy recreation projects awaiting funding - completion of the Bob Jones Trail from the Octagon Barn to Ontario Road is at the top of the list - none of those projects is under such tight time constraints.
The Pismo Preserve deserves immediate attention; if the county and other agencies fail to move quickly, this opportunity will slip away. We strongly urge the county Board of Supervisors to vote Tuesday to allocate $1 million to purchase the Pismo Preserve.